Book: Sex at Dawn

immaterial

New member
Has Anyone Read "Sex at Dawn"?

And if so, any opinions? I'm intrigued by the central thesis. From the promo materials for the book:

"...human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners. Weaving together convergent, frequently overlooked evidence from anthropology, archaeology, primatology, anatomy, and psychosexuality, the authors show how far from human nature monogamy really is. Human beings everywhere and in every era have confronted the same familiar, intimate situations in surprisingly different ways. The authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity."

I do cast a skeptical eye on behavioral science that confuses "human nature" with some sort of imperative. Obviously, we transcend human nature on a daily basis. IMO.

Curious if anyone has read this.

Immaterial
 

River

Active member
The book, Sex at Dawn, is being discussed in various threads in the fora here. I have not yet read the book, but intend to. It seems to merit its own thread.

Sex at Dawn
by Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. & Cacilda Jethá, M.D.

http://sexatdawn.com

Moderators: Feel free to remove this thread if it already exists -- my search did not turn one up.

To those who have read this book: I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. Also, links to reviews and other discussions of this book are most welcome.
 

SNeacail

New member
I liked it, but thought it was pretty one sided. I felt as if the authors were pushing the idea that the "Hunter/Gatherer" society was far superior than the "Agrarian" societies and we should do away with agriculture all together and go back to being hunter/gatherers. There didn't seem to be much room for a balance between the two.
 

Penny

New member
I liked it, but thought it was pretty one sided. I felt as if the authors were pushing the idea that the "Hunter/Gatherer" society was far superior than the "Agrarian" societies and we should do away with agriculture all together and go back to being hunter/gatherers. There didn't seem to be much room for a balance between the two.

I didn't really get that from it. I felt the authors were examining our primitive roots, the way we were for all human history preceding the advent of agriculture. Monogamy as we know it is a relatively recent development, and the idea is that if we lived differently for the vast majority of our existence as a species, then what we are doing is, in all likelihood, unnatural.

This does not mean that chosen monogamy is unnatural, but that enforced monogamy goes against our biological imperatives and is unhealthy for us on many levels.
 

MindfulAgony

New member
I liked it, but thought it was pretty one sided. I felt as if the authors were pushing the idea that the "Hunter/Gatherer" society was far superior than the "Agrarian" societies and we should do away with agriculture all together and go back to being hunter/gatherers. There didn't seem to be much room for a balance between the two.

I agree that the authors were pretty clear that immediate-return hunter gatherer societies had some structural advantages with respect to egalitarian balance between the sexes, role of sex in society, and role of property/possessions.

He was pretty clear about the role of agriculture having some clear advantages in being able to support much larger populations - but still leading to systematic poverty, etc... It's success from a cultural/technical evolution perspective is manifest. It is a successful model and - now - necessary to our very survival. Which is why there was so much hand wringing about it in the book - the unintended consequences are severe.

I thought it a provocative argument. Only one sided in the sense that he doesn't spend a lot of time on arguing how agricultural revolution allowed our species to dominate the earth in real terms. I also don't think it requires much argument. He was focused on the under-appreciated impact of this wildly success cultural/techno revolution.
 

nycindie

Active member
Other threads on the book

Hi, I found a few related threads, so I thought I'd point them out here...

RickPlus reviewed Sex at Dawn, and a discussion followed in the Book Recommendations thread:
http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?p=62739#post62739
The link above goes directly to the review and discussion which starts at Post #71. At Post #78 member Zinc summarizes the book.

See also a thread by Jokutus about jealousy, prompted by his reading of the book:
http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4170

...and a thread where member Immaterial asked for opinions on the book, but no one responded: :(
http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3170


Also, the book has been mentioned in several members' blogs, including mine, but mine was part of a longer post about a specific relationship, so I'll just include the little bit I wrote about the book here:

Been reading Sex at Dawn . . . It's an interesting book, with good writing, and full of conclusions that seem to make lots of sense. The authors point out flawed conclusions of other scientists who have made pronouncements about human love and relationships, but they don't back up their own conclusions with enough evidence. Some, but not a lot. So, you know, there really is no proof of anything, but it does seem to support very well the idea that people are biologically designed for polyamory -- that is not to say everyone is meant to be polyamorous, but that we're built for it . . . So, each person still has to make their own choices, but I like the idea that the status quo is being questioned. Who knows? Maybe we'll start to see poly families in commercials soon.

I need to read it again because I think I skipped a lot of it.
 
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River

Active member
Thanks!

Folks, does the book discuss the "polyamory movement" and its literature, websites, magazines, etc...? Does it use the word, polyamory? ( -- a word of fairly recent coinage)
 

Ready2Fly

New member
I thought it was a great book, although it certainly does tend to do a little cheerleading for our side, which as a polyamorist I love, but at which as a scientist I tend to look askance.

No, he does not discuss modern polyamory or use the word at all, I believe, unless it is in the final page or two of conclusion. His subject matter is prehistorical nonmonogamy from an evolutionary and anthropological standpoint. He does discuss at length contemporary cultures in which strict monogamy is not the rule (which turns out to be most of them).
 
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River

Active member
He does discuss at length contemporary cultures in which strict monogamy is not the rule (which turns out to be most of them).

I hadn't realized! That's good news, I think. (Refering mainly to the parenthetical element.)

Thanks for answering my question.
 

geminigirl

New member
I had the pleasure of meeting one of the authors (Christopher Ryan) at the Seattle Loving More conference last October. Not only is he an engaging speaker (and pretty cute, too :p ) he was also very up front about how happy he was to be among poly folks, because we were so enthusiastic about his main message (that monogamy is not necessarily "natural") and because we really enjoyed his bonobo videos. Hee.

I loved the book, btw.
 

Ready2Fly

New member
I didn't say "not predominantly monogamous"; I said "strict monogamy not the rule," the latter including cultures who practice monogamy predominantly but have socially acceptable outlets (festivals, particular people, etc) for nonmonogamy.

Since I don't know you and have no idea what you want society to provide for you, I cannot answer your underlying question. I suggest you read the book if you really want to know what's in it.
 

MonoVCPHG

New member
Since I don't know you and have no idea what you want society to provide for you, I cannot answer your underlying question. I suggest you read the book if you really want to know what's in it.
No thanks. I'm not that curious LOL!.
 

Hades36

New member
Monogamy...huh?

So, I know the question has been asked a dozen times on this forum (although I couldn't really find them, although I didn't look very hard, either)...

But where exactly did the concept of monogamy even come from? Not saying its wrong or anything, but just curious as to why and how it developed and stuck. I've read "Sex at Dawn" and a few other books but I didn't feel like they were being really clear.

Any ideas or suggestions?
 

Ariakas

Bosun
It was a method the romans merged different societies to itself to propagate its own growth (financially intellectually or geographically). In this merging they absorbed the good of the societies, and tossed out the bad.

Taken to further growth by christians in order to.. well do lots of things. Destroy the pagans, create a dissected caste system separating the pure bloods from the poor folk...or just in general, a method of pure unadulterated control over everything (including the monarchy) until a certain king challenged the concept of divorce.

In history you most often find matrimony being monogamous, but mating being more, liberal. Look to the romans, english, greek etc for history on this. Being married didn't preclude having some side action.

Monogamy grew with christianity (and western dominance) as did the laws of most western countries...

Thats the bare short of it of course. I am leaving out a lot of details I am sure others may be more interested in listing haha.
 

ImaginaryIllusion

Administrator
Staff member
A lot of the popularity of Monogamy I think come from Patriarchy.

Check out the post here:
http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showpost.php?p=12454&postcount=6
It has the links to Gwynne Dyer documentary...about 15 years old now, but I think it answers a lot about how we got to where we are...where as Sex at Dawn has a lot about how we were before that.
 

ray

New member
I find it ironic that many people hold on to monogamy as a traditional value when the majority of humans in many societies over thousands of years have practiced various forms of non-monogamy. It's not a new thing. The rise of Christianity really began to cement the construct of monogamy we have today.
 

Hades36

New member
Talking about in humans specifically.

I mean, from a practical, survival kind of standpoint, having more than 2 people in a relationship seems really beneficial. But there also seems to be a number, a tipping point as it were, where the relationship would be too large and clunky, at least with regards to intimate connections running smoothly. I imagine at that point the group would splinter off somehow and form a new family.

The problem, it seems, with expanding your relationship is attracting people who are truly going to be committed to the concept of "all of us" and not "you and me". Most of us have been raised in a society that promotes rugged individualism (either/or thinking) over a more group-centered (tribal) psychology, right? Add into that all of our fears and insecurities and you have a train wreck.

Being polyamorous seems like a reaching back to something both simpler and more complicated that could be found in our species ancient history, but I wonder if we've come to far in the direction of imagined growth and prosperity for many of us to be able to evolve our relationship style and beliefs into that form again?

I've always believed that polyamory was the most realistic approach to loving and bonding that could exist. Since I was 16 years old I've believed that but, of course, been in nothing but strictly monogamous relationships, which included all of the joys and horrors of such a high-pressure construction. Like, our entire concept of love and romantic bonding is built around the idea that 2 people meet, fall in love, get married and have a baby; almost every romantic book, play, novelization, song, painting, poem, music video, article, lecture, workshop, website, etc. is focused on this idea, right? But I've always thought it was just silly to think that love, with all its complexities and mysteries and miracles, could be squeezed into a single connection with one other human being and put under wraps until that relationship ended and then it was applied to a new partners and so on.

Its cool having this forum so that we can see what other people think and are experiencing.
 
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